Starting Out

SquareOneLogoI could talk about this subject extensively…
but I’m starting out here.

I talked to a rank beginner today.
She was expressing frustration as I was giving her husband feedback.
“I’m so frustrated. After hearing what you said,
now I’ll need to start back over from square one.”

I laughed.
A hearty belly laugh.
It was the most ridiculous thing I had heard.

I can’t tell you how many wrong turns I have taken on my BJJ journey.

  • Spending 2 years in the Gi
  • Spending 5 years focused on closed guard
  • Moving away from half guard

and that’s just the ones off the top of my head .

But you know, I never really had to start over.
I never had to unlearn everything.
My foundation was never really shattered.
Certain movements, certain philosophies…but not all.

So to all the NOOBS out there,
don’t worry about starting over.

You’re no longer at square one.
Yes, you’ll need to unlearn some things
but I assure you, like me,
you’ll have parts of your game in your game 5-10 years from now
that you quite likely learned on Day 1.

There is no getting around building bad habits.
So build them. Build them fast, and fix them faster.
Like composition, there is no such thing as good writing..
only good editing.

Jiu-Jitsu is an endless process of refinement.
But you’ll need to acquire the crude to refine.
So get back on that mat.
It was only square one once.

Is Any Position In BJJ Better Than Another?

flow21“Position Before Submission”

How often have you heard that phrase?
How often have you used that phrase?

It isn’t just something that is said constantly,
it is practiced just as much.

Do you have a favorite position?
When you roll, do you work like hell to get there
and work even harder to keep it?

As a white belt, I’m sure you spent plenty of time drilling
“holding” a position, after all,
if you want the submission
you have to be in position first.

Let me ask you this?
Is there any core position you cannot get a submission in?

I think if there is anything Catch Wrestling has taught us
it’s that from any (core) position,
there is always a submission
or sweep.

If there is a submission, why is there one?
Because no one can defend everything.
Going for one thing opens you another.

If there is a sweep, why is there one?
Because independent of how good our base is,
we are never perfectly in balance,
our weight never perfectly centered.

In any position, there is always the opportunity
to unbalance our opponents
finding a sweep or submission.

But this informs a different practice.
Imagine a practice to where no position is bad
so there is no resistance to going to it
or flowing through it.

Don’t try to get to THE position before submission…
Allow yourself to be in ANY position before the submission.

Tips for the Banged Up Grappler

Anatomy-of-a-Black-BeltI am a banged up grappler.  Before I came to grappling, I had a laundry list of issues not the least of which being a chronic (pain) hip issue.  Having that issue opened me to have other issues…but not nearly as many as others who started around the time I did.
What’s my “secret?”

I don’t have secrets, but there is a lot to what has left me more resilient than most while being more disadvantaged than most.  I can’t tell you all of it here, in fact, its so voluminous that I have a certification course all about it…but let me get you started with some general principles.

Know Your Limits
In a macho sport where it’s all about pushing beyond limits,
let me recommend another approach: Work within them.
How?  By listening to your body.

  • If something hurts, don’t do it.
  • If you start to get tired, take a break.
  • If you want to be real conservative, stop whenever you start to slow down.

You might be thinking…
Well, how am I supposed to get better if I don’t do those things?
By doing what you can.

Work Within Your Limits
Ask yourself these questions:

  • If something hurts, can you do some part of it comfortably?
  • Now that I’ve taken a break from being tired or slowing down, how soon again can I start?
  • Can I come to class earlier?
  • Can I stay later?
  • Can I work within my limits more?
  • Can I work more?

Expect Your Limits to Increase
As you get better at listening to your body,
expect your body to reward you with more ability.
Periodically, you’re going to be able to do more of something. That may be:

  • A more complex movement
  • Being stronger in a position
  • Rolling Faster
  • Rolling Longer

I’ll go so far as to say if going to BJJ is actually beneficial to your body on that day, expect to do more in some area than ever before.  But doing BJJ isn’t enough to be healthy.  You have to…

Do What You’re Not Doing
Our body reshapes itself after what it does making it easier to do what we do.  That’s good.  But this reshaping makes it harder to do what we don’t.  That can be bad.

If we don’t want to lose the ability to move, we have to practice moving in all directions.
Unfortunately, no Martial Art moves the body in all directions it can move.  So what can we do?  Go to the gym.

Unfortunately, other fitness routines have move in ways we already do in our sport, which just compounds the issue and makes us more susceptible to injury. So what should we do in the gym? Do in the gym what we don’t do in the dojo.  That’s what THE MASTERPLAN is all about.

THE MASTERPLAN isn’t another Strength & Conditioning routine to add in to what you do….Because I don’t recommend adding in another routine, I recommend that you:

Eliminate Routine
Routine can be useful in starting a habit but can be progression’s worst enemy.  Progression has to allow for regression.  Doing the same old thing can only get you so much better, but…If you know your limits, work within your limits, expect your limits to increase, do what you don’t do, the only thing routine in your life will be getting better.

Try these tips out and let me know how much better you are getting!

Building a Limited and Limiting Game

pver1No matter who I’m working with: a striker, a grappler or a Mixed Martial Artist, I ask them to build a game.

Games are great. They save you time from Martial Arts ADD, bouncing from technique to technique. But games can be bad, too…as they limit you…but all things do. There is no way to get around limits.

Some limits you are born with. You are limited by your body especially by limb lengths and somewhat less by its inherent mobility.

And so when you are building a game, choose your limits well.
Pick a game that fits your body.
It just won’t work otherwise.
But when you’re picking a game, remember that game has to work against other bodies, too.

Pick one that is sound. Pick one that you can implement on all the body types you will be facing. For those that are bigger than you, faster than you and for those who are better than you.

If you are grappler, be a choker, an arm locker or a leg locker but understand you can’t be all 3…at least well.

And as you develop, build your game. Make your transitions better. Make your submissions better…but never forget to be a specialist. Choose your limitations or your limitations will choose you.

Known By Your Movement

Vitruvian_notangry_fixCompetition comes from “competere”
which is Latin for “striving together.”

When we think of combat athletes,
we often think of them in rivals


Each made each other better.

Early in my BJJ days, my favorite drilling partner
was among my toughest rolling opponents,
“Archenemy Chris.”

Much of my game was tailored around
trying to beat him or not get beat by him.
That’s a very organic way to build a game.
It’s personal.
But it’s also limiting.

It’s limiting because you only get better than that opponent.
So if you are only measuring your game by Wins and Losses,
you better have a lot of rolling partners.

I think there is another way to build a game, though.
Instead of thinking of opponent’s personally,
try thinking of them more impersonally.
Try thinking of them as collection of movements.

From any position you get beat in by your opponent,
they own a movement set better than you.
Practice those movements until they don’t.

Understand, you don’t need opponents to practice movement
or to find out which movements you lack.
If you are the more scientifically minded,
determine which anatomical ranges of motion you lack (wiki it).
If you are more of a dojo rat,
find out which solo drills you aren’t good at and practice those.

The best Martial Artists aren’t just defined by their opponents.
They are defined by their movements.
Be defined by your movement.

Martial Arts Professional

martial_arts_brown_belt_tie-p151556006956633459en71g_152What is a professional?
I think we use that term fairly loosely.
He is so “Professional” as in…
he is so businesslike.

Using the word in that way is OK
and it is important
but that isn’t the first definition of the word.

Professional has most to do with a profession…
or what someone does for money.

In that respect,
almost all of us are professionals
as almost all of us do something for money.

Some of us are lucky enough to make money doing Martial Arts
and that makes us a professional.
Some of us are very businesslike.
We are cordial.
We make it on time to teach.
Our appearance is squared away
and the places we teach at are neat and orderly.
But there is another tier of “Professional” that I admire,
that I aspire to.

It is when “Professional” is used synonymously with integrity.
They are as much practitioner as they are a preacher of their practice.
They don’t just teach it
They live it.

Many of the Martial Artists I have known are some of the most grounded, humble and “oriented towards better” people I have ever known.

Not all of them made money from Martial Arts,
but they were all what I would consider
“Martial Arts Professionals.”


renzo_gracie_legacyHave you seen the Renzo Gracie Documentary:
Renzo Gracie: Legacy?

I liked a lot about it.
One of the things I like the most
was how gracious Renzo was in defeat by Kazushi Sakuraba.

Renzo was facing Saku, the Gracie Hunter (Killer, according to some)
after the brothers Royler and Royce
had fallen prey to the Japanese Catch Wrestler.

And he, too, fell prey to the venerable man in orange.
Saku was Turtled up and Renzo had his arm underhooked
from the back in what is sometimes referred to as
a wrestler’s arm bar. Saku reached around with his arm and caught Renzo above the elbow and got Renzo in a Kimura setup.

He stood up, turned around
and in the transition back to the ground
Renzo’s arm broke…
As Saku raised his arm in victory,
Renzo held his arm in defeat.

Renzo talked of how his defeat to Saku
gave him his greatest victory.
He was able to take his body to a place
few people have taken their body…
past the broken point
and still not give up.

I can understand that in some points in life…
perhaps even in some competitions,
that is necessary skill…
but Renzo spoke as if his body
was always something he had to force into submission.

This, of course, is a familiar belief…
of conquering the body with the mind
and conquering the mind…well, with the mind…
but I would ask you consider another point of view.

I would ask you to consider that more is to be gained
from working within the body’s limits
to submitting to the body’s limits.
instead of asking it to submit to you.
Your body will eventually break,
no need to hasten it.
So work within those limits
and build a body
build a martial art
little by little
that will bend
but not break under the strain of life.

Joe Rogan Black Belt

methodgetsjoe-rogan-eddie-bravo-300x294One of my favorite Jiu-Jitsu Videos was Joe Rogan receiving his 10th Planet No Gi Black Belt (on my Birthday, too)

I am not a Joe Rogan hater, in fact, I’m a fan.
This video made me even more of a fan.
I want to key in on one of the things he said.
He says,
My Taekwondo teacher (unapologetically mentions his TKD lineage, more of us should do that) told me Martial Arts is a vehicle for developing human potential.

There are some that say that Martial Arts is a sport.
You can be a perfect gentleman in the dojo
and a douchebag in the street.

But everything affects everything
and compartmentalization only works for so long.
Your life comes into the dojo
and your dojo comes into your life…
which leads me to ask these questions:

What is your strategy in the dojo?
What is your game?
And is that game a useful strategy for your life?

If your dojo strategy isn’t a good life strategy,
consider altering it
because a new strategy may work better in the dojo, too.

I believe Movement Martial Arts principles
are not only useful in the dojo
but useful in life
and I look forward to the day when they permeate
every aspect of my game
and every aspect of my life.

Some Sports Psych

UFC 148 Preview: Chael Sonnen WorkoutI have a love/hate relationship with Sports Psych.
So does Chael Sonnon.
Chael is infamous for losing fights he shouldn’t have
(including his last one).
Chael was so concerned with this
he hired a sports psychologist.

As a coach on TUF,
Chael relays a similar story as this:
(which I’d bet he heard from his Sports Psychologist)

A Coach comes in with a 2×4 and sets it on the ground.
He gives all of his athletes a very simple instruction:
Walk across the 2×4 without falling off.
Each athlete does so. Easily.
The Coach then leaves the room and comes back in with
two, twenty-foot step ladders
and suspends the 2×4 between them.
The athletes protest and the Coach asks them,
what’s the difference?

Ignoring the flex on the 2×4,
the actions required to traverse the makeshift plank
are no different, but as Chael mentions,
the environment is completely different.

He goes on to describe how in training there are no lights, no referee, no “Uncle Dana” watching. So what makes training and fighting so different?
The environment.

One of the pillars of Sports Psychology is simulation training.
The idea is to simulate as much of the competition in training as is possible. The one thing that is hardest to simulate is the environment.

And so, what can one do about that?
When we become too focused on the environment
We could direct our attention to our actions…
the things that are most like our training.

Act so much, train so much, so that no matter how you feel
when it is time to compete,
you have no choice but to act
and act as you have trained.

As Chael says,
Fear, Anger, Sadness, Love…
won’t win you a fight.

(Holding up his hands)
But these will.
Your actions will.

Author’s Note:
(I think Chael lost his last fight based on strategy, the training of the spinning elbow, not on a mental weakness. I really hope he gets a world title someday.)

Such Great Effort

51cqDns-dEL._SX500_I watch as many “combative” sports documentaries, as possible. Boxing, wrestling, or any martial arts doc will suffice.

Last year I watched, SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, which profiled Jon Fitch and the entire AKA team during the time leading up to and directly after his world title fight with Georges St Pierre.

The cast was full of MMA celebrity, if not royalty, including current Heavyweight champion of the world, Cain Velasquez, and two of the self proclaimed masterminds, Dave Camarillo (no longer with AKA) and “Crazy” Bob Cook.

Jon is portrayed as not much of an athlete
having always played above his ability…
(I can appreciate the sentiment,but that is a physiological impossibility)
and winning by outworking his opponents.

That is what they attribute his wins to…
but that is what I attribute his losses to:
Hard Work

Hard Work means he is continuing to fight, to push it,
to move when he is fatigued.

Let me ask you a question:
Does your body ever stop adapting, ever stop learning?
Nope. Living systems constantly adapt. Constantly learn.

And when you’re working hard, what are you learning?
You’re learning that moving is hard..
You’re learning that technique is hard.
You’re learning to move slow
You’re learning to be tired.

Why don’t you learn that moving is easy?
That moving fast is easy?
That being in shape is easy?
What would that look like?
What would practicing for that be like?

Is it possible to stop working so hard…
to stop using such great effort?
What heights could be reached then?

Note: Since that time, Fitch has drawn once, and lost twice in his last four fights.